Fringe: The Recordist

Posted on October 15, 2012

We quite stupidly put off writing this review, forgetting that we were going to have to write reviews for both Revenge and  The Walking Dead come the work week. As a result, we’re going to wind up giving this episode short shrift. But we have a fairly good excuse: it bored the hell out of us and left us wondering what the point was after it was all over. In fact, this episode is a pretty good example of why we’ve put off reviewing Fringe on a regular basis, even though it’s one of our favorite shows: it doesn’t always lend itself well to episode-by-episode reviews.

Fringe has a tendency to get a little dense in its mythology and plot lines, and it’s not afraid to throw a bunch of stuff at the viewer in a quiet manner that belies the importance of what’s going on. In other words, we really don’t know what the point to all of this was, but there’s a good chance we’ll understand it better when the season is nearing its end.

But is it us or are the tree people kind of … goofy? It felt a little jarring. Sure, Fringe has always dealt with freaky science and monsters, but there was something a little off-tone about this group of bark-covered people living out in the woods of Pennsylvania and recording history for posterity. It’s like the show took a left turn somewhere and landed in Middle Earth, except everyone has really advanced computers with holographic displays. Last week, we clapped our hands with glee at the thought of an extended quest tale, in search of Walter’s lost BetaMax tapes. This week, we felt like we were stuck in a “Legend of Zelda” videogame where you must first encounter the Tree People and then convince them to give you the magic metal that will allow you to go down into the mine to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sorry, it really lost us. About the only worthy scene in the entire episode was the one with Peter and Olivia talking about their feelings, but that’s probably because we love watching any scene with Peter and Olivia talking about their feelings. Plus, it helped to fill in a little bit of the backstory.

And maybe that’s why we found this episode so boring and inconsequential; because we as viewers really need some backstory right now. There are just way too many gaps and unanswered questions. And the quest tale is already losing steam, right as it gets out of the gate. This was, in many ways, a classic Fringe episode and a good example of why the show has always struggled to keep an audience. It never really knew what kind of show it wanted to be and spent far too many episodes in its run spinning its wheels and hoping the audience would stay for the ride. Let’s hope this is an outlier for the season, because the first two episodes were energetic and emotional. Let’s get back to that feeling. This felt like a season 2 episode – and that’s not a compliment.

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  • ValerieKJones

    The portions of the episode about making sacrifices for your family and the future were good, but it seemed like they were with the tree people for too long. It would have been better if the search for the location was more complicated and then there would be less downtime at the camp. There were a lot of individual moments that highlighted Fringe at its best, but the episode did lag a bit in between them.

  • Megan Patterson

    Yeah, I was bored by this episode too. You articulated it much better than I could!
    Although obviously a quest plotline has high potential to get videogamey, I mean, come on. 

  • MilaXX

    Perhaps I’ve gotten used to Fringe, but I was okay with the tree people. I definitely think the child tree person shall be a VERY IMPORTANT CHARACTER in later eps . What did bug was the feeling that this season is going to be all quest for Walter’s betamax tapes. I just think the Observers wold figure that out too easily although I can’t see another way to move the plot forward. I do agree we need more Oivia/Peter back story of the missing years. Nonetheless, it’s the final season, I can’t imagine not sticking around to see how this ends.

    • Joan Roseman

      Unfortunately it is not really a case of filling in the missing years, because at least 90% of them were spent encased in amber.   As far as they are concerned the Observers came with purpose, they lost their child, Peter stayed put to search for Etta while Olivia went to New York to retrieve the memory unifying thingie for Walter and they all spent the next 20-odd years suspended.  Now they are plunked down into an even more chaotic world with a fully grown, badass daughter, apple pills and egg sticks.  Oy!

      • MilaXX

        I get that but it feels ike there are a few missing years before they went into the amber and a few more post amber before they found Olivia.

  • At this point all it takes is a Walter High Times joke, Astrid getting irritated, Peter and Olivia and their feelings, and now Etta and her awe at her parents, and I’m still hooked. At least it wasn’t a season one episode, with some silly monster doing forgettably horrible things.

    • kimmeister

      Yes – at least we still got Walter trying to sniff weed (or whatever it was) from a Ziploc bag!

  • pattyw

    In the scene where Tree Dad had a heart-to-heart with Tree Son, I swear the lighting made the make-up job totally obvious. I was so distracted it ruined the emotion of that scene for me.

  • Not my favorite episode by a long shot, but I still think this was a good one.  Got some more information to Walters plan (and almost instantly!) and some more small character moments Fringe is known for.  Although I agree it was kinda slow, I still think this shows better than 95% of things on television at this moment.

    Also the last half of season 2 was some of the strongest (if not the strongest) stuff the shows put out.  Not saying, but just saying

    • spititout

      Thank you for the encouragement about season two.  I recently watched the first nine episodes of season two and will continue to enjoy every episode for all it is worth, but I am glad to hear it gets stronger, because I was feeling a little antsy.

  • annieanne

    I felt like I was watching a bad Star Trek episode – The Planet of the Tree People. And I never did quite grasp how those rocks were so powerful they turned the recordist into bark inside a few hours but Fringe Division could merrily haul them away with no danger.
    Or clearly I missed something important when I zoned out halfway thru…..

    And the glyph code for this episode was Anger. So figure out how that fits in.


    I won’t catch this episode until I get home from the airport
    tomorrow, but I’m hoping it’s better than it sounds. I’ve watched Fringe since
    its beginning. A few coworkers at DISH are usually criticizing it at work, but I
    think that the show deserves the entirety of its five seasons. Walter antics
    never get old, so I plan to save every episode from here on out to my Hopper. Since
    I have a DVR with a lot of memory and the lingering feeling of nostalgia,
    scenes will probably be watched a few times over, after the series comes to an